Lectures and presentations
‘Memorialising Famine Landscapes: A Comparative Approach from the Irish Great Famine and the Finnish Great Hunger Years’.

JYU experts related to activity

All expertsNewby, Andrew

Activity details


Nature of eventScientific conference

Name of eventEURHO Rural History Conference 2021

Presentation typeOther public presentation

Start date20/06/2022

End date23/06/2022



Andrew Newby, University of Jyväskylä, Finland; Charley Boerman, Radboud University, Netherlands

In contrast to the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s, Finland’s Great Hunger Years – two decades after the Irish catastrophe – have been referred to as a “forgotten famine”. Indeed, it has been suggested that the Finnish people
have suffered collective “amnesia” over this period of their history. And yet, fieldwork since 2015 has revealed the
presence over one hundred memorials, widely distributed throughout those areas of rural Finland that suffered the
highest mortality during the 1860s. This paper deals with one of the most significant concentrations of these memorials, found along the so-called “Skeleton Track”, the railway that was built as relief work between Riihimäki and St. Petersburg, between 1867 and 1870. The construction of the railroad was employed as a relief work scheme to combat the poverty and hunger of “Europe’s second-to-last major peacetime subsistence crisis”: Finland’s ‘Great Hunger Years’ of the 1860s. Ultimately however, the relief works led to a spike in local mortality rates. These sites were often unmarked ‘no-places’ that fell into disuse, until local initiatives erected memorials and monumentalized these rural sites. While the Irish famine roads are remembered as “colonial” relief policies administered during the catastrophe, “constrained less by poverty than by ideology and public opinion”, the Finnish relief works (including canals, roads and smaller local projects in adddition to the railway) were developed under “home rule” by the same people who later developed the national narrative of the famine. This different understanding of the relief works has led to a different contextualisation of these famines sites. How is this visible in the ‘interpretive signs’, plaques, and other markers? How are sites of mass graves memorialised or recovered? In this paper, we will focus on the memorialization of these sites specifically and the role rural, haunted landscapes play in famine remembrance more broadly.

Main country visitedSweden (SE)

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Last updated on 2024-04-06 at 11:34